Rise of the Triad is often overlooked in the pantheon of first-person shooters. Released in late 1994 by Apogee (before that company created the 3D Realms brand for its 3D action titles), it was originally intended as a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D but spun off into its own franchise early in development. The link title of this post leads to a lengthy but entertaining article about the game’s genesis and legacy, which I’d highly recommend reading if you’re into early Apogee and 3D Realms history.
ROTT has a curious aesthetic about it, both in its visual design and in the features of its 3D engine. Each level has its own fixed floor and ceiling heights, but the player can move vertically by stepping onto floating sprite-based platforms. Walls are all at 90-degree angles, showing their Wolf3D legacy, but there are all kinds of special objects and obstacles that make the world seem less angular and more dynamic. Some of the artwork seems lovingly pixel-painted, while other pieces (most notably enemies) are obviously palettized digital photos. It’s a mixed bag of strange combinations in general; obsoleted technology being enhanced with generous amounts of special effects (bullet decals, fog, dynamic lighting) and fun ideas (jump pads, Dog Mode). Oh, and lots and lots of gore.
The game was released in December of 1994, a full year after Doom put its enormous mark on the genre. Not long after its release, the hype machine for Quake would be set in motion. Apogee couldn’t have picked a worse time to market its fun-but-technically-outdated shooter, and it predictably got lost in the shuffle. Looking back at the game 17 years later though, I see a lot of fresh ideas in it that foreshadow the cool stuff that was to come in games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. ROTT was behind the curve in many ways, but pretty well ahead of the curve in others.